The United Auto Workers union has brought new attention to the idea of a 32-hour workweek as part of its strike demands.
Turns out, most workers would embrace a shorter workweek.
A recent Bankrate survey found 81% of full-time workers want a four-day workweek. That goes particularly for younger workers ages 18 to 42, with 83% embracing that work schedule, the personal finance website found.
The enthusiasm for a four-day workweek comes as the Covid-19 pandemic prompted many workers to question the so-called “hustle culture” that has defined traditional full-time in-office work. Many people now want a better work-life balance, prompting workers to want to continue to work from home rather than returning to the office.
“When you look at these younger generations, they might be more shaped by some of the changes that we felt from the pandemic,” said Sarah Foster, economic analyst at Bankrate.
To get a four-day workweek, 48% of Gen Z and millennial workers said they would be willing to work longer hours; 35% said they would change jobs or companies; 33% said they would work fully in person; 20% said they would take fewer vacation days; 13% said they would accept a pay cut; and 12% said they would take a step back in their careers.
Yet it remains to be seen whether the idea will be widely adopted by employers.
“It’s still nontraditional,” Foster said. “Because so many Americans want it, it’s probably going to mean competing for those relatively few jobs that offer the perk.”
Employers are emphasizing well-being
In the meantime, Gen Z and millennial workers still say their top priority is higher pay, with 32%, according to Bankrate’s research. But better work-life balance came in a close second, with 31%. That includes flexible working hours, more time off and the ability to work from home.
“Employees want their organizations to share in their sense of well-being,” said Julie Schweber, senior knowledge advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM.
Employers, in turn, are making efforts to show they care about workers’ well-being.
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That includes expanded mental health resources and benefits, and more options for paid or unpaid leave for family and child care, Schweber said. Employers are also expanding their wellness offerings in areas such as handling stress and financial planning, as well as enhanced insurance subsidies, on-site flu and Covid shots and health screenings.
The availability of a formal four-day workweek is still limited, Schweber said. The perks workers might find more widely available instead include unlimited vacation time, flexible hours or “Summer Fridays” where employees can either leave early or not work at all on Fridays during the summer, she said.
How to ask for flexibility
While negotiating more flexibility may be possible, experts say it’s important to be strategic.
“It may be tough to ask right out of the gate, when an employee really hasn’t demonstrated their superstar status yet,” Schweber said.
You may want to pick your timing for after you’ve established a strong reputation on the job, she said.
If you want a four-day workweek, start by talking to your boss, Monster career expert Vicki Salemi suggested. While a companywide policy may not provide that schedule, sometimes there is flexibility in individual departments, she said.
Alternatively, there may be other flexibility arrangements you can negotiate that would better suit your needs.
For example, by emphasizing what you have been contributing through longer hours, you may be able to negotiate for reimbursement of your time spent commuting or working overtime, she suggested. If instead you need flexibility with regard to child care, you may want to make that your focus.
“The benefit of negotiating directly with your boss is determining ahead of time what you need most, and that’s what you would prioritize,” Salemi said.
Often, employers will try to work with those requests rather than risk losing good employees, she said.